Kenosha fan gooses attendance with angry rant

An angry anonymous fan of the Kenosha Comets, the Kenosha, Wisconsin team of the All-American Girls Softball League, wrote a letter to the local newspaper in July 1943, after the mid-season title series, strongly criticizing the locals for not showing enough support for the team.

The girls “are playing their hearts out for a town that simply will not back them,” he said, adding that the stadium is packed only when people get free tickets. He finished by characterizing Kenosha as Piker Town.

A few days later the sports editor, Eddie McKenna, weighed in saying there was “no denying that the Comets [deserved] much better support than shown them thus far.”

Mary Nesbitt, pitcher, Racine Belles, 1944, AAGPBL

The Comets were a valuable asset that brought positive national publicity to the town, McKenna said, making dark references to “uncomplimentary stories” (unspecified) that the ‘big time’ dailies ran “giving Kenosha the well-known smear and ‘black eye.’”

McKenna said that unless attendance at Comets games increased substantially in the remaining few weeks of the season, there was a good chance Kenosha wouldn’t be among the expanded roster of cities hosting an All-American team in 1944.

Kenosha lagged behind the other three teams in terms of paid attendance for the first half of the season. The Racine Belles, who won the first-half title, drew 20,000 spectators to 21 home games. Rockford was next with an audience of 19,000 for 22 games. South Bend drew 13,000 in a similar number of home games, while Kenosha, in 23 contests , managed to attract only 12,000 paid spectators.

He pointed out the financial advantages in having the team in Kenosha.

“Money is put back into circulation in Kenosha by the girls for meals, clothing and living expenses while visiting teams stay in a hotel , and also patronize local business houses during their trips here.”

The Comets, he assured them, were determined to win the second-half pennant so that they could meet the Racine Belles for the championship.

“An opportunity to prove supremacy over Racine, this city’s deadliest rival in athletics and any other activity, should awaken a new spirit of pride in Kenoshans and be their incentive to carry the Comets to the top in attendance,” wrote McKenna.

The fan’s harsh criticism and McKenna more persuasive tone seems to have done the trick. About three weeks later McKenna reported the Comets had drawn 8,572 spectators in just three nights and in a report dated August 30, McKenna could hardly contain his enthusiasm.

“In a spontaneous outburst of civic cooperation and unprecedented enthusiasm, 3,772 spectators surged into Lake Front stadium [in Kenosha] Sunday night to establish a spectacular, glittering attendance record for the season…The crowd surpassed by some 800 the mark set last week at Racine when Kenosha was the opposition.”

As promised, the Kenosha Comets did win the second-half pennant, and to handle the larger crowds for the championship series against the Racine Belles, the Kenosha stadium added 1,500 seats.

The fans showed up, but the outcome was disappointing for them. The Kenosha Comets lost the first three of a possible five games and the Racine Belles became the ‘World Champions,’ as the League proclaimed it.

Mary Nesbitt, Racine’s left-handed pitcher, was accorded in newspaper reports the “major portion of the credit for the Belles’ decisive victory in the playoffs.”

Overall attendance in 1943 was just over 176,000 spectators and continued to grow each year, peaking in 1948 at 910,000.

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About Lois Browne

I'm a mystery writer, blogger and traveller.
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